Sensory Memory

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, taking origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.

-William Wordsworth 

Ink pens. Something about rainy days like today make me think of ink pens. Ink pens and obviously, school. 

Just a few days before school re-opened, there would be a visit to the stationery shop. It was a daunting task, choosing the perfect ink pen, or rather, have an ink pen choose you. All this had to be done before the stationery aunty lost her patience and made her mind up to not give you change but Nataraj erasers. There were the silver ones with small delicate paintings of flowers or birds on them, the solid colour pens with golden coloured caps, and the fancy fountain pens with full nibs. And if it had to be ink pens, it had to be Hero. 

The excitement of having bought a new pen is inexplicable; The feel of the pen, its metallic smell and the matt finish of the silver ones. Such joy. Filling ink was always a messy job for me, and that made the process more joyous. The measured presses on the rubber tube, tapping it with a furrowed brow like it’s a syringe after every few presses, watching the drops slide down slowly, then fast, one behind the other falling into the rubber tube, and a bit of it always on my hands-such a simple yet intricate process. Once in a while, when the drops refused to glide down, you’d have to press the tube to release any stray air bubbles, and this would inevitably lead to a higher degree of ink-stained hands. The tiny clink-clinks of the tip of the pen against the glass of the ink bottle is a sound I’ll recognise any day. It was an unwritten rule that if you had a Hero pen, you absolutely had to have Bril’s Royal Blue ink, and if you were an adventurous soul, you could have the occasional black ink. The ink smelt somewhat earthy- like soil in a potted plant, but inky and smooth-flowing, with a hint of the smell of dust. 

Source: Milligram Journal

Writing with an ink pen is like running your finger over silk- it moves smoothly and effortlessly. But there’s always the faint scratch-scratch noise that friction creates when you’re bent over and writing as fast as you can and I loved doing this if I had my closed nib Hero. As someone with innately terrible handwriting (despite the innumerable efforts to improve), the open nib pens were my enemies. They made sure that my writing fetched nasty comments from my parents and teachers. But the silver lining was that whichever pen was used, I could watch the ink glisten on the paper for a second and dry up before I could blink. If you’re a kindred soul, you know that your anxiety left behind telling marks on either the bottom of the pen, or the tip of the cap. While deep in concentration sometimes, the wrong end would find its way into your mouth and you’d realise it only too late- that inky liquid-y taste is strong on your tongue. This would be followed by a vigorous rub-down of your tongue till your hanky had blue patches and your mouth the dry taste of cloth. 

The cool of the steel of an ink pen is constant; regardless of whether you pressed it to your forehead in the middle of the math exam in March, or to your cheek as you whiled away in the last period on an overcast day in August, waiting for the wind outside to give in to the  downpour you knew was coming when earlier in the day you’d felt a slight drizzle during the ‘Our Father’ in the morning assembly and after the lunch break, had to hold down your skirt against the breeze as you made your way down to the toilet at the end of your second-floor corridor. Rain towards the end of a school day has magic that nothing else can live up to.

A few more minutes and your last period is blessed; down comes the rain with a great crescendo, but also with a calming quiet, and the lovely petrichor (a word I wouldn’t learn for another 2-3 years). There’s a sudden rush around the classroom as the girls shut the green-framed glass windows in a hurry- the spray is too strong. Then comes the wait that seems so long before you can wear the new raincoat with disfigured drawings of animals, covering you from head to ankle, schoolbag included. Oh, and that heavenly smell of newness and rubber! Forgetting to tuck your plaits inside this raincoat is a rookie mistake. 

Living close to the school meant that you’d walk back home, holding hands with your Grandpa and feigning groans as you step in a puddle, getting water into your shoes and reaching home with your toes looking like raisins. It was okay that you wouldn’t get to go out cycling in the evening today- sitting in your room in warm clothes and reading Nancy Drew as you eat Maggi was just as good, maybe better even. 

It didn’t matter then if you got drenched, or if it rained throughout the day into the night, or if there wasn’t any electricity for the past two hours because you could sit outside the front door after you’re done with homework and eat fresh-boiled peanuts with everyone and watch as the sky lit up every now and then with lightning followed by low grumbly thunder. You love the rain even more because you know that there won’t be any marching practice tomorrow- the mud grounds will be full of puddles and slimy mud. Homework would’ve been to write a composition of 200-250 words on the festivals of India, highlighting your favourite. In Hindi. Your writing that looked so much like ‘crows’ feet’ in english would look fascinating in the Devanagari script, the ink from your pen now glinting gold under the yellowish light of the emergency lamp for a second before it dries up. 

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